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Fountain House And St Gabriel Fenchurch

A brief post this week as I have been short of time, however a post that covers two aspects of London that fascinate me. The first is about London’s buildings, the considerable range of different architectural styles over the centuries, how these change, how some buildings survive, the degree of rapid change – Fountain House in Fenchurch Street is a good example.

The second aspect are the traces of London’s history that can still be found in a rapidly changing City, and for this, St Gabriel, Fenchurch is an example.

Fountain House, Fenchurch Street

I came across Fountain House whilst walking along Fenchurch Street. There is nothing special about the building, however the design of Fountain House is from a specific period. It is the type of building that I expect will soon disappear and be replaced by a much taller glass and steel tower, making full use of the space not occupied by the relatively thin tower.

This is the view approaching Fountain House from the east, along Fenchurch Street:

Fountain House

Fountain House was constructed between 1954 and 1958 to a design by W.H.Rogers and Sir Howard Robertson (Consulting). It was the first London building constructed to the tower and podium formula where a large podium occupies the full area of the plot of land, with a much small central space occupied by a tower block.

The lower podium block is occupied by a central entrance foyer and around the street level of the podium there is space for a range of retail units.

The corners of the podium are almost triangular in shape to fit within the surrounding streets. As the central tower only occupies a small percentage of the overall plot of land, today’s developers would no doubt consider this to be wasted space and a modern replacement would see a glass and steel tower occupying the full width and depth of the land available.

This is the view of the corner of the podium, which faces to the east. The clock makes a good central feature to the corner of the building.

Fountain House

A walk down Mincing Lane provides a view of the width of the tower to the street, only three bays wide.

Fountain House

The Pevsner guide describes Fountain House as:

“The first office tower in London to repeat the motif of Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House, New York (1952), that is a low horizontal block with a tall tower above, here set end-on to the street. With its podium curving to the street and lower return wing along Cullum Street, the composition is tentative compared with later versions of the formula.”

The Lever House in New York, referred to by Pevsner is shown in the photo below. The same concept of podium and tower that would be repeated a couple of years after Lever House was built in 1952 in the City of London with Fountain House.

Fountain House

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the late 1950s, Fountain House must have appeared to be the latest architectural style transferring from New York – the City of London rising from the destruction of the war.

Fountain House in the final stages of completion in 1957:

Fountain House

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_010_57_3038

The central entrance to Fountain House:

Fountain House

The two pillars can be seen in the 1957 photo, however I suspect the canopy was a later addition.

A look into the entrance foyer reveals what looks to be a refurbished interior:

Fountain House

The corner of the podium on the western edge of Fountain House:

Fountain House

Always on the look out for plaques attached to buildings, I found the following fixed to Fountain House along the side of the building facing onto Fen Court. The plaque from December 1964 marks the boundary of the site with the implication that the land belongs to the Clothworkers Company (who have their Hall just to the south of Fountain House).

Fountain House

The Clothworkers Company do indeed still own the freehold to Fountain House.

So what is the future for Fountain House?

This first example of podium and tower architecture in the City of London may not be around for too much longer. A development agreement is in place between the Clothworkers Company and the tenant of the building for a major redevelopment of the site. Fountain House will be replaced by a new block which occupies the whole site and makes use of the empty space above the podium, not occupied by the tower. The new building looks to be very much like any other glass and steel tower to be found across the City.

The tenant can commence development from 2017, so I suspect this will happen when the financial case for a new office block makes sense to the tenant.

A shame as I rather like Fountain House.

St Gabriel Fenchurch

The following photo is the view looking east along Fenchurch Street. Fountain House is the building on the left.

Fountain House

Look to the right of the photo and there is a blue plaque.

This records that the church of St Gabriel Fenchurch stood in the roadway opposite, so would have been in the centre of the photo above.

Fountain House

St Gabriel Fenchurch was one of the many City churches destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt.

I have not been able to find too much about the church. There are no prints of the church in my books on London churches and history or online (that I could find).

There is a brief description of the church in “London churches before the Great Fire” by Wilberforce Jenkinson published in 1917:

“The church of S. Gabriel, Fenchurch Street, formerly stood in the middle of the street, and was built not later than the fourteenth century. Before 1517 it was known as S. Mary’s and some time ‘All Saints’. Possibly there was a triple dedication. Corruptly it went by the name of Fen Church and gave a name to the street. The district may have been marshy, for the brook, the Langbourne, went through it, and Langbourne Ward is still in evidence. The first rector was John Payne. 1321. The church was a small one, but was enlarged in 1631. In the Return made in 1636 the income of the rectory, including the house, was stated to be £131.

This house, with the garden and graveyard, was the gift of H. Legges. R.Cook, who was rector during the Civil War, was ejected for his loyalty in 1642, but was reinstated at the Restoration.

The church figured in the City decorations on the day of King James I’s coronation entertainment. Ben Jonson described it in 1603:

At Fen-Church the scene presented itself in a square and flat upright, like to the side of a Citie; the top thereof, above the Vent and Crest adorned with houses, towres and steeples in prospective.”

Stowe in his Survey of London has but a single sentence for the church: “In the midst of this streete standeth a small parish Church called S. Gabriel Fenchurch, corruptly Fan church.”

Much the same description is given in the 1771 edition of Chamberlain’s Survey of London, so all the descriptions of St Gabriel’s provide a consistent view of the church.

The Collage archive at the London Metropolitan Archives has a map which shows the location of the church in the centre of Fenchurch Street. The strange thing about this map is that Collage dates the map as c1800 which is 134 years after the church was destroyed in the Great Fire.

Fountain House

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: k1264238

The map shows the position of the church, and also the burial ground of St Gabriel, part of which can still be found today.

Fen Court is shown on the map leading from Fenchurch Street to the burial ground. I mentioned Fen Court earlier in the post, and it still runs from Fenchurch Street along the eastern edge of Fountain House, to where the remains of the burial ground can be found.

Fountain House

Although St Gabriel Fenchurch was not rebuilt after the fire, the burial ground continued in use. A plaque records what happened:

Fountain House

The text is not that clear so is reproduced below:

“This churchyard was attached to the church of St Gabriel Fenchurch which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The parish was united with that of St Margaret Pattens in 1670 and was included in that of St Edmund Lombard Street in 1954.  The churchyard was paved and planted by some of the owners and occupiers of the adjoining buildings in 1960.”

The text illustrates how churchyards and burial grounds from churches not rebuilt would be taken up by other local churches. This contributed significantly to the long term survival of these patches of land in a City ever hungry for additional growth space.

The remaining graves appear to be from the 18th and 19th century. Nothing from the time of St Gabriel which is not a surprise, and I suspect burials ended in the 19th century as happened across the majority of City burial grounds and churchyards as after centuries of taking the dead of the City of London, they were over full and a serious health hazard to an expanding City.

Fountain House

A rather ornately carved grave remains:

Fountain House

Which appears to have been built in 1762 by Anne Cotesworth as a burying place for herself as she was born in the parish and her nearest relations were buried in the next vault.

Fountain House

The remains of the burial ground of St Gabriel Fenchurch are immediately behind Fountain House. Hopefully this reminder of a long lost church will not be impacted by any redevelopment.

Fountain House is a reminder of how architectural styles change so quickly across London. Once the first example of a new design imported from New York. Sixty years later, and it may well be disappearing in the next few years – and London continues to evolve.

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St Botolph Without Aldgate

The subject of this week’s blog was easy to find, however I found the specific location from where my father took the following photo through one single building remaining in an otherwise completely changed street scene. The church tower in the centre of the photo is that of St Botolph without Aldgate. The  church tower is distinctive and easy to recognise, although the very top of the spire is missing, probably through bomb damage.

There are no other obvious locations in the photo to identify from where my father took the photo. There looks to be a bomb site between the church and the road.

St Botolph without Aldgate

I walked all the surrounding streets trying to find the location of the photo. The search was not helped by the amount of new building obscuring the view to the church, however when I walked down Dukes Place towards the junction with Creechurch Lane and Bevis Marks I saw one building that looked familiar.

If you look to the left of the above photo, there is a tall building. Look to the left of the photo below and the same building is remarkably still there – a lone survivor from the pre-war buildings in these streets.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Although the ground floor is very different, the floors above have the same architectural features in both photos. The building today is NMB House, however if the building is the same as described in the Pevsner guide to the City of London, it was Creechurch House.

NMB House is at 17 Bevis Marks, and the Pevsner Guide states:

“Nos. 17-18, Creechurch House: smart warehouse facing Creechurch Lane, by Lewis Solomon & Son, 1935, with metal faced floors between stone mullions.”

Pevsner states that the building included number 18. It looks as if the building has been reduced in width, with the space where number 18 once stood, now being occupied by a new building with only number 17 remaining from the original.

The following photo shows the building with Creechurch Lane running to the right,

St Botolph without Aldgate

This is a wider view, and my father took the original photo from just in front of the bus stop. Compared to the original street, post war widening and straightening can be clearly seen in the view today.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Walking down Dukes Place towards St Botolphs without Aldgate, the church becomes visible and at the rear of the church are trees, much as in my father’s original photo.

St Botolph without Aldgate

A much better view of the church can be found by walking a short distance down Minories, the street directly opposite the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

As with many old City churches, the first written records that mention St Botolph without Aldgate date back to the 12th century, although an earlier Saxon church was probably on the site as evidence of 10th or 11th century burials have been found in the crypt.

The church was originally attached to the Priory of the Holy Trinity. It was rebuilt just before the dissolution of the monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign and restored in 1621. St Botolph without Aldgate was declared unsafe and demolished in 1739, making way for construction of the church we see today.

The church before demolition was recorded in a number of prints, including the following  dated 1739:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The rebuilt St Botolph without Aldgate was designed by George Dance the Elder and built between 1741 and 1744. George Dance was the surveyor for the City of London and the designation ‘Elder’ is to separate this George Dance from his son, also George Dance who was also an architect for the City.

The new church was aligned so that the entrance to the church and the tower above faced directly to the Minories.

The following drawing by George Dance the Elder shows the church looking exactly the same as it does today:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

The dedication of the church, St Botolph without Aldgate is firstly to St Botolph, who established a monastery somewhere in East Anglia in the 7th century. St Botolph died around the year 680. The addition of “without Aldgate” is to reference the location of the church as being outside the City walls.

There are a number of other St Botolph churches on the edges of the City, St Botolph without Bishopsgate, St Botolph without Aldersgate, and there was a St Botolph Billingsgate, destroyed in the Great Fire and not rebuilt.

I have found a couple of possible sources for the association of St Botolph with these churches on the edge of the City. The first is that in the 10th century, King Edgar had the remains of St Botolph divided and sent to locations through London. They passed through the City gates and the churches alongside the gates through which the remains passed were named after the saint.

The other reference associates the City gates with St Botolph being the patron saint of wayfarers, who would use the City gates as their entrance to and from the City.

Both of these sound plausible, and I find it fascinating that the names of churches on the edge of the City refer to both the original Roman wall and possible events from the 10th century.

A traveler arriving at the City gate near St Botolph without Aldgate would find a very different view today with the office towers of the City rising behind the church.

St Botolph without Aldgate

There is an open space on the City side of the church, however buildings run up close to the church to the north and east:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Another of the plans drawn by George Dance showing a section through the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

“George Dance the Elder, StBotolph, Aldgate, London, c.1740s: (1-9) Plans, elevations, sections & detail of ceiling © Sir John Soane’s Museum, London”

On entering the church there is a record of all the parish priests of the church. The first line almost appears apologetic for the lack of records remaining from before the 12th century “The parish priests of Aldgate are known only from AD 1108”

St Botolph without Aldgate

Also in the entrance to the church is this splendid momument to Robert Dow, who died in May 1612 at the age of 90 – a rather good age for the 17th century.

St Botolph without Aldgate

Robert Dow was a Master of the Merchant Taylors and during his life gave away a substantial sum to various charitable establishments. The value of his donations and those receiving the money are listed on his monument.

I am not sure what the symbolism of the hands covering the skull means – it gives the impression that he had a hold over death (as his 90 years possibly demonstrated), or perhaps representing his own skull in death.

Another monument is to Thomas, Lord Darcy who was beheaded on Tower Hill for treason in 1537 during the reign of Henry VIII.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The view on entering the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

The interior of St Botolph without Aldgate retains the original galleries and Tuscan columns, however much of the decoration is from a redecoration of the church carried out between 1888 and 1895 by J.F. Bentley who added some remarkable decorative plaster work to the ceiling of the church:

St Botolph without Aldgate

Close up of the ceiling decoration:

St Botolph without Aldgate

I find it fascinating to discover the stories behind the monuments in the City churches. In St Botolph without Aldgate there is a monument to Willian Symington, who died on the 22nd March 1831. The monument records that he constructed the Charlotte Dundas, the first steamboat fitted for practical use, also that he died “in want”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

William Symington was Scottish, having been born in the small village of Leadhills. He studied engineering at Edinburgh University and worked in Wanlockhead where his brother George was building steam engines to James Watt’s design.

William Symington was always interested in whether a steam engine could power a boat. The problem was not just the mechanism to propel the boat, but also how a steam engine could be installed in a wooden boat, without the boat catching fire.

He tried a number of experiments with limited success, problems such as the paddle wheel disintegrating preventing a fully successful trial.

From 1800 Symington continued his work under the patronage of Thomas, Lord Dundas, who had an interest in the Forth and Clyde Canal.

A first trial of a steam boat on the River Carron ended in failure. The second trial was with a new boat named the Charlotte Dundas after Lord Dundas’ daughter. This successful trial included the Charlotte Dundas towing two barges over a distance of 18.5 miles.

Although the trial was a success, there were concerns with the damage that the wash from a steamboat would do to the banks of a river or canal. Symington had also received an order from the Duke of Bridgewater for steam boats on the Bridgewater Canal, however this was cancelled when the Duke died.

As opportunities for Symington’s steamboats collapsed, he moved to the management of a colliery, however this ended in a legal case following which Symington was a rather poor man.

So far, all his time had been spent in Scotland. The London connection starts in 1829, when Symington, in poor health and in debt, moved with his wife to London to live with his daughter and her husband. He would die just two years later and be buried in the churchyard of St Botolph without Aldgate.

William Symingtons steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas:

St Botolph without Aldgate

His reputation was somewhat restored during the later half of the 19th century, and the monument in the church was installed in 1903.

Symington was possibly the subject of some skulduggery. Reading newspaper reports and letters after his death reveal stories such as the following from a Robert Bowie who wrote to the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette on the 5th May 1838:

To the editor of the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette:

Sir, Having observed the paragraph in your journal and in others to the effect that the American Government had granted £24,000 to the heirs of Robert Fulton, the ‘original founder’ of steam navigation. I beg leave to say that, whatever may have been Mr Fulton’s merit in introducing steam navigation to America, he had no right to the title of being its original founder, as he was but a copyist, and obtained, as will be seen by the following documents, the knowledge which enabled him to effect his purpose from William Symington, the first who propelled vessels by the power of steam.

Mr. Symington forms another instance for the page of history, of national ingratitude and neglect; and it is assuredly no great proof of the superiority of this country to America, that instead of rewarding him who conferred an inestimable benefit, his very petition for an investigation of his claims in parliament, was not allowed to be presented.

Fulton’s heirs have not been the only parties who have reaped the rewards of Mr. Symington’s labours. Even at home rewards were bestowed on Henry Bell, who barefacedly used Mr. Symington’s plans, and carried, it is recorded, the model of the first steam boat to Fulton in America. Henry Bell was frequently on board of Mr. Symington’s boats, and was often seen investigating the Charlotte Dundas after she was laid up near Glasgow; and it is a strange and rather suspicious circumstance that the model of a steam boat left by the late Lord Dundas and Mr. Symington in the Royal Institution, disappeared unaccountably from that building; and thus the ‘Fulton Steam Frigate’ as described in the first volume of Blackwood’s Magazine, was, with the exception of her warlike apparatus, a facsimile of Mr. Symington’s Boat.”

No idea if there is any truth in Mr Bowie’s allegations, but an interesting story of possible 19th century industrial espionage.

William Symington’s monument was installed in 1903. There are much older memorials in the church including the following from 1577 recording that “Here lyeth the corps of Robert Tailor”.

St Botolph without Aldgate

The windows of the church have stained glass recording Lord Mayors of the City of London and their Livery Companies:

St Botolph without AldgateSt Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate

The beautifully carved wooden panel in the following photo dates from the early 18th century (it was restored in 1971). The panel came from the church of St Mary Matfelon, Whitechapel when the church was destroyed by bombing on the 27th December 1940.

St Botolph without Aldgate

An 18th century sword rest:

St Botolph without Aldgate

St Botolph without Aldgate is a fascinating City church with a long history, which I have covered all too briefly in this post.

I was really pleased to find the location in Bevis Marks from where my father took his photo. The one remaining building in the area provided the key landmark to locate the viewpoint – amazing that this one building has survived the considerable redevelopment of the area over the last 60 years.

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Along The Thames From Chiswick To Hammersmith

If you drive west out of London, along the A4, Great West Road from the Hammersmith Flyover to Chiswick and the Hogarth Roundabout, you pass along a very busy highway with three lanes of traffic either side.

This probably is the last place you would expect to find one of the more historic walks along a very scenic part of the River Thames, with some of the views looking more like the depths of the countryside rather than a built up area of west London.

There are some superb walks along the River Thames, and for today’s post, here is a walk from Chiswick to Hammersmith on a very hot Saturday afternoon in June (it is also a lovely walk on a cold, dark winter’s evening). The walk is perfect for a hot day as there are plenty of suitable stopping places along the route for some quick refreshment.

In the following map extract, the A4 is the large road running from the Hammersmith Flyover at top right, down to the Hogarth Roundabout at bottom left.

Chiswick

(Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

A short distance below the A4 is the river and along the river is a series of streets starting with, on the left, Chiswick Mall.

I started by walking to the river down Church Street, between St. Nicholas’ Church and Fuller’s Griffin Brewery to reach Chiswick Mall.

Chiswick Mall runs along the river, with gardens separating the street from the river, and large houses lining the street opposite the river.

The views here to the river look as if they should be from the upper reaches of the river, rather than a short distance from the six lanes of the A4.

Chiswick

The river here does frequently flood across the road. This was not a particularly high tide, however the damp road shows how far the river had come across the road.

Chiswick

The majority of the houses on the opposite side of the street have flood defences in the form of walls and metal gates that can be closed across the entrances from the street to prevent water from flooding towards the house.

There are also signs warning of the potential impact if you leave your car along the Chiswick Mall.

Chiswick

This is Walpole House, a Grade II listed building dating from the 18th century, possibly with elements from the 17th century.

Chiswick

Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, a former mistress of King Charles II was one of the earliest recorded residents, with Thomas Walpole a later owner, who gave his name to the house.

Another view from Chiswick Mall towards the River Thames:

Chiswick

Italy or Chiswick?

Chiswick

At a number of places, the route between Chiswick and Hammersmith turns slightly in land and there are houses between the street and the river. This is where Chiswick Mall ends and becomes Hammersmith Terrace.

Chiswick

There are a number of references to the age of the terrace, dating them from 1755 to 1770. The houses along the terrace are nearly identical, however there are some minor differences, and some which stand out such as very different entrance doorways.

As could be expected there are blue plaques to be found. This one to the typographer and antiquary Emery Walker Chiswick

Emery Walker was a friend of William Morris and it was Walker’s interest in early typefaces that inspired Morris to set up the Kelmscott Press.

A short distance along the terrace is another blue plaque, this time for Edward Johnston, a Master Calligrapher.

Chiswick

Edward Johnston has had a significant impact on 20th century London. It was Johnston who created the sans-serif alphabet (now called Johnston) in 1916 for use across London Underground.

At the end of Hammersmith Terrace, the route returns to run alongside the River Thames, and at this turning is a good stopping point – The Black Lion:

Chiswick

The view at the end of Hammersmith Terrace. Hammersmith Bridge is just starting to appear in the distance:

Chiswick

The view looking back upstream towards Chiswick with Chiswick Eyot in the middle of the river:

Chiswick

The River Thames between Hammersmith and Chiswick is a wide river. In many places the river is bounded by large concrete walls that keep the river within the channel, however in some places, such as where the river floods in Chiswick Mall, the river comes up to the road, with a poorly defined boundary between river and land.

This was the state for the river until recent times, and early prints show a wide, meandering river with marshy edges. The following print from 1750 shows the River Thames from Chiswick:

Chiswick

In 1834, the banks of the river are starting to be developed, but the edge of the river is still a natural boundary between buildings and river:

Chiswick

However much of the river now has a very clear boundary, and time for another stop at the Old Ship:

Chiswick

A short distance along from the Old Ship is the London Corinthian Sailing Club, with a lookout and small pier for launching boats onto the Thames:

Chiswick

Chiswick

The forerunner of the club was the London Sailing Club, who later moved further downstream towards Essex, and those who remained in Hammersmith started the Corinthian’s. They were original housed in a building where Furnivall Gardens are now located, however the area suffered badly in the war, and the council cleared the land to create the gardens.

The council provided Linden House for the club where it remains to this day. The building is a magnificent, 18th century, former Merchants house.

Chiswick

On the corner of Upper Mall and Weltje Road is this house with a blue plaque on the side:

Chiswick

The plaque records that the artist Eric Ravilious lived in the house between 1931 and 1935.

Chiswick

He lived in a flat in the house with his wife Tirzah Garwood. His work had a very distinctive style and his later work covered many wartime scenes. He took the opportunity for a posting to Iceland with the RAF in August 1942 to paint both the Icelandic scenery and the work of the RAF.

On the 2nd September 1942 he was on an air-sea rescue mission flying from Iceland, in search of a plane that had been lost the previous day. The plane with Ravilious on board also disappeared, and he was lost at the young age of 39.

The following is an example of his wartime work. Bombing the Channel Ports. with the description from the IWM image: “a deserted coastal road that leads past an ‘acoustic mirror’ early warning device. In the top right of the composition there are searchlights beaming up into the sky, and a large circular glow of light to one side.”

Chiswick

Bombing the Channel Ports (Art.IWM ART LD 1588) Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/22468

On the river wall opposite is this survivor from 1960 warning that you could be fined forty shillings for driving or parking along Upper Mall:

Chiswick

On the wall of Eric Ravilious house, there is another survivor from the time when Hammersmith Borough Council was the authority for the area up to 1965.

Chiswick

A Jasmine covered lamp post:

Chiswick

Carved decoration on houses:

Chiswick

On Upper Mall is the small museum of the William Morris Society:

Chiswick

The displays are worth a visit, and above the entrance is an interesting plaque recording a unique event that took place here in Hammersmith.

Chiswick

The plaque is to record the construction and testing of the first electric telegraph here in Hammersmith in 1816.

This was the work of Sir Francis Ronalds who lived here and used his garden for experimentation. He was awarded a knighthood in 1870 and the following Illustrated London News report provides a good insight into an interesting character:

“The Queen has lately conferred the honour of knighthood upon a gentleman in the eighty-second year of his age, who showed the use of the electric telegraph so long ago as 1816. Sir Francis Ronalds, F.R.S. formerly director of the Kew Observatory, has devoted his life to the advancement of electrical science and its practical applications. in 1814, having made the acquaintance of M. de Lue, then engaged in a series of interesting experiments, Mr. Ronalds was induced to turn his attention to this subject.

The researches he then began, with a view to ascertain the degrees of quantity and intensity in the electric pile, and his invention of a clock to be kept in motion by electro-galvanic power, were described in the Philosophical Magazine.

In the summer of 1816 he undertook to prove the practicability of telegraphic communication at great distances, by transmitting a certain number of electric shocks, for an arranged signal, through insulated wires of a considerable length. He laid his wire in glass tubes surrounded by wooden troughs lined with pitch, which were placed in a covered ditch, 525 feet long and 4 feet deep in his garden at Hammersmith. He also suspended eight miles of wire, by silk cords, from two wooden frames erected on the lawn, so that the wire passed to and from many hundred times, well insulated at each point of attachment, and forming one continuous line, kept separate from contact with other parts.

Both these kinds of apparatus served equally to show the instantaneous transmission of the electric shock. in order to provide the means of conveying intelligence along the underground line, he placed at each end of it a clock, with a dial bearing twenty letters inscribed. It is only needful to explain that the two clocks were made to go isochronously, the one always presenting the same letter as the other at any particular second of time; and the moment chosen was indicated at the other end by the sudden collapse of a pair of pith ball electrometers, suspended at each station close to the clock dial and connected with the telegraph wire.”

The following illustration shows the apparatus used by Francis Ronalds in his Hammersmith garden:

Chiswick

I wonder what he would have thought of the people walking by his house using mobile phones with instant communication anywhere in the world?

The route now turns slightly in land as there are a row of houses between the Mall and the river, and here we find the next stop:

Chiswick

The Dove is an old pub, originally an early 18th century coffee house, not that big, but with some brilliant views over the river and the perfect place for a stop on a hot summer’s afternoon.

A short distance further along, the route returns to the river’s edge, alongside Furnivall Gardens, named after Dr. Frederick Furnivall who was one of the original creators of the Oxford English Dictionary. The relevance to the location alongside the river is his enthusiasm for rowing and his own Furnivall Sculling Club.

Alongside Furnivall Gardens we can get a view of the full length of Hammersmith Bridge:

Chiswick

Unfortunately, as the tide comes in, the river washes up the rubbish that has probably been up and down the Thames many times with the tides.

Chiswick

My next stop was at the Rutland Arms, probably the busiest pub along the river between Chiswick and Hammersmith.

Chiswick

Almost next door to the Rutland Arms is an older pub (the white building with the awning projecting from the front), the Blue Anchor which was first licensed in 1722. Another good stop on a hot summer afternoon:

Chiswick

A final blue plaque for George Devine, the Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, who lived in this house overlooking the river and Hammersmith Bridge.

Chiswick

I then reached the end of the walk from Chiswick to Hammersmith, at Hammersmith Bridge, which deserves a dedicated post, however I took a quick walk across as this is always a fascinating bridge to pick out design and construction details.

Chiswick

The year of construction, 1887, replacing a previous bridge across the river:

Chiswick

Detail of the decoration on the rods leading up from the deck of the bridge to the main suspension cable:

Chiswick

Lights, which all appeared to be on during a bright summer afternoon:

Chiswick

The view from the bridge to the north bank at Hammersmith:

Chiswick

Wooden seating between the walkway across the bridge and the road.

Chiswick

As traffic passes over the bridge it makes a very distinctive rumbling noise. The cause of which is easily seen, as it the reason why Hammersmith Bridge is London’s weakest bridge.

The deck of the bridge appears to consist of wooden decking, overlaid with metal plates, then a layer of tarmac, which in many places has disintegrated. The rumbling noise as traffic passes over the bridge is caused by tyres passing over the many exposed bolt heads, which presumably are holding the metal plates and wooden decking together.

Chiswick

Chiswick to Hammersmith along the river is a fascinating walk, not just for the architecture and scenery, but also to discover early experiments with the electric telegraphic and the creator of the typeface that is still used across the London Underground.

There are also plenty of refreshing stops along the way, which on a very hot June day were very welcome.

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A Bomb Site In Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road

I was intending to write about Ampton Street a couple of weeks ago, It is the location of one of my father’s photos, taken in 1947, of a street with a cleared bomb site along one side of the street.

This was one of the photos my father had printed, and on the reverse was written Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Road. I had assumed the photo was taken from Gray’s Inn Road (I will explain why later), but when I got home and checked the photos side by side on the computer, it was obvious that I had taken the photo at the wrong end of the street. I had a day off from work last week, so on a rather lengthy walk, I included Ampton Street on the route and finally photographed the scene from the correct end of the street.

Ampton Street is shown in the following map extract. In the very centre of the map, a relatively short street running right from Gray’s Inn Road towards Cubitt Street.  (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Ampton Street

This is my father’s photo taken in 1947. The  view is looking from Cubitt Street, along Ampton Street, in the direction of Gray’s Inn Road. A length of Ampton Street has been cleared of houses following considerable bomb damage.

Ampton Street

The first house still standing on the right hand side of the street is on the junction with Ampton Place, so the entire terrace of houses from Ampton Place to Cubitt Street has been destroyed.

This area on both sides of Gray’s Inn Road suffered considerable bomb damage during the war.

The LCC Bomb Damage Maps showing the houses on the cleared space as “total destruction”.  The houses on the left of the street are colour coded purple “damaged beyond repair” and red “seriously damaged”. This also applied to many of the buildings in the street directly opposite Ampton Street on Gray’s Inn Road and there are new buildings now covering these areas.

A V1 flying bomb also landed just south of Ampton Street on the area just behind what is now  the Eastman Dental Hospital (the old Royal Free Hospital).

I love the detail in these photos, in this one there are a couple of children playing in the street:

Ampton Street

This is the same view today:

Ampton Street

I took the photo a bit to the left of where my father was standing in order to get a slight view up Amton Street.

The bomb site is now covered by the brick buildings on the right of the photo and the open space on the left is also covered by new buildings.

Ampton Street is now closed off to through traffic with only a pedestrian walkway and cycle lane running through into Cubitt Street. Looking through the gap between trees and buildings it is just possible to see the porticos on the houses on the left, far more clearly shown in my father’s photo as in 1947 there was a clear view along the street.

These are the buildings on the cleared bomb site:

Ampton Street

In my father’s photo, a couple of the buildings have a portico over the entrance. These are still visible today and a couple of buildings have also had porticos added since 1947.

Ampton Street

The LMA Collage archive includes a 1972 photo of the same terrace of houses as shown in my photo above.  A number of the houses look to be in a rather derelict state, with broken windows and boarded up ground floor windows. Rather amazing considering the prices these houses would sell for today.

Ampton Street

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_333_72_716

This is the view leading into Ampton Place. The house on the left is the one seen at the end of the cleared bomb site in the 1947 photo.

Ampton Street

This is the view looking down Ampton Street towards Cubitt Street. The housing on the left occupies the 1947 bomb site:

Ampton Street

This is the photo I took a couple of weeks ago, looking across Gray’s Inn Road towards Ampton Street, thinking at the time it was the right place.

Ampton Street

In my defence it was a hot day, I had already walked for miles, and I was looking at the original photo as a small printout. I had assumed that the park area on the right of Ampton Street was the old bomb site, however it should have been very obvious that the houses on the left are different to the original photo and the house just visible on the right is too close to Gray’s Inn Road to be the house in the original photo.

Ampton Street was built between 1821 and 1827 by Thomas Cubitt. The land between Gray’s Inn Road and the Fleet River was owned by Lord Calthorpe and in 1814 he applied for an Act of Parliament to approve the paving of streets on his land.

Some of this land was leased to Thomas Cubitt who built Ampton Street, Frederick Street, and the street now named after the builder, Cubitt Street (however at the time it was called Arthur Street.)

The houses that remain in Ampton Street are perfect examples of Cubitt’s early 19th century designs. This is the terrace running from the Gray’s Inn Road to Ampton Place along the northern side of Ampton Street. On the far right of the photo can be seen the new builds on the old bomb site. This original terrace probably shows what the destroyed terrace looked like.

Ampton Street

A rather nice street name plaque:

Ampton Street

It is unusual to walk these early 19th century streets and not find a street without a plaque recording a previous resident and Ampton Street continues this rule with an LCC plaque recording that Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, historian, and key founder of the London Library lived here from 1831 to 1834. It was his first London residence after moving from Craigenputtock, a very rural location in south west Scotland where Carlyle lived with his wife.

Ampton Street

Carlyle wrote about his stay in Ampton Street that they spent “an interesting, cheery, and in spite of poor arrangements, really pleasant winter. We lodged in Ampton Street, Gray’s Inn Lane, clean and decent pair of rooms, and quiet decent people. Visitors in plenty, John Mill one of the most frequent, Jeffrey, Lord Advocate, often came on an afternoon.”

Thomas Carlyle’s house in the centre of the photo:

Ampton Street

The area around Ampton Street, covering Lord Calthorpe’s original land still has many of the original early 19th century buildings and shows the development of the city as formal streets and housing spread north. There is a Calthorpe Street, named after the original owner of the estate, running from Gray’s Inn Road to King’s Cross Road to the south of Ampton Street.

It was a pleasure to make a return visit, however also a lesson that I need to more carefully check the original scene.

When my father’s photos include children, I always wonder if they are still alive. The two playing in the middle of the street in 1947 would I suspect now be in their late 70s – and if they came back to Ampton Street, I suspect they would be very surprised by how good the street looks today.

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New Deal For East London – Bethnal Green

On a cold, windy and grey day in February, a day that seems very different to the weather we are having in June, I walked to the sites in Bethnal Green, Mile End Road and Stepney, continuing in my project to visit all the sites listed as at risk in the 1973 Architects’ Journal issue: New Deal for East London.

I had intended to cover all these locations in a single blog post, however I keep finding things of interest during these walks, and I did not have the time to write the full post, and did not want to impose such a lengthy post on readers, so I split into two.

A few weeks ago was the post on Mike End and Stepney, and today I am in Bethnal Green.

The post covers sites 49 to 52, where I also find an 18th century boxer and an interesting walk down to Mile End Road.

Bethnal Green

The area I will be walking is very built up, and has been since the early decades of the 19th century, however in 1746, Bethnal Green was still a hamlet surrounded by fields. Despite the very rural nature of Bethnal Green in 1746 it is possible to see the majority of the streets and features that we can walk through today.

The following is an extract from John Rocque’s 1746 map and I have labelled the key features I will cover in the rest of this post.

Bethnal Green

The area today, with the locations marked. Very different from the rural fields of 1746 (Map  “© OpenStreetMap contributors”).

Bethnal Green

I travelled out to Bethnal Green on the underground and arrived at Bethnal Green Station which is at the junction of Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and also located at this busy road junction is:

Site 49 – Soane’s St. John’s Bethnal Green

The church of St. John’s, Bethnal Green looks over this major road junction from the corner of Cambridge Heath Road and Roman Road.

Bethnal Green

The church was designed by Sir John Soane and built between 1826 and 1828.

One of the so called Commissioners Churches as the church was a result of the 1818 and 1824 Acts of Parliament which provided sums of money and established a commission to build new churches.

These were needed in the areas where there had been considerable population growth and Bethnal Green is a perfect example of the transformation of an area from a low population, rural landscape, to a densely populated urban settlement.

The location of the church was on open land directly adjacent to what was already a road junction in central Bethnal Green, however there are also references to there being a Chapel of Ease on the site, or close to the new church, (for example the Tower Hamlets publication: “History of parks and open spaces in Tower Hamlets, and their heritage significance” mentions a Chapel of Ease in 1617). The Roque map does show a building of some form in the road junction which may have been the Chapel of Ease, although this is just speculation at this point and needs some further research.

The church was damaged by fire in 1870 with much of the interior and the church roof being destroyed. The church was reopened the following year after restoration, which included new bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The church did suffer some damage during the last war, fortunately not the major level of damage suffered by many other east London churches.

The church was closed on the day of my visit, however it is good to see that the church is still an imposing building overlooking this busy junction, even on a grey and cold February morning.

Diagonally across the junction from the church is the Salmon and Ball pub:

Bethnal Green

Early references to the Salmon and Ball date the pub to the first half of the 18th century, however the current building dates from the mid 19th century and is Grade II listed. The earliest contemporary reference I could find to the Salmon and Ball is from a newspaper report on the 26th November 1795 reporting that:

“This day about two o’clock, in consequence of Advertisements, several thousand Weavers assembled near the Salmon and Ball, Bethnal Green, to take into consideration a Petition to the House of Commons against the Bill brought in by Mr. Pitt, to prevent the people from meeting, &c. Mr. Heron was called to the Chair, when several resolutions were passed and a Petition against the Bill agreed upon.”

There are newspaper references to an east London Salmon and Ball going back to the 1730s, but they do not specifically confirm that they refer to the pub in Bethnal Green.

The name of the public is interesting, I have only found one reference to the origin of the name. In the East London Observer on the 9th January 1915 in an article titled “Roundabout Old East London” by Charles McNaught, there is the following reference to the Salmon and Ball:

“The Salmon and Ball, by the bye, figures prominently in more than one historical scene in the turbulent days of Bethnal Green Weaverdom. Apart from that, however, it is a tavern sign sufficiently incongruous to awaken curiosity. The early silk mercers adopted the Golden Ball as their sign, because, in the Middle Ages all silk was brought from the East, and more particularly from Byzantium and the Imperial manufactories there. And at Byzantium the Emperor Constantine the Great adopted a Golden Globe as the emblem of his imperial dignity. The Golden Ball continued as the mercer’s sign until the end of the Eighteenth Century and then it gradually passed to the ‘Berlin’ wool shops, and – conjoined with a fish or other animal – its was favourite sign for Taverns in the silk weaving area. 

The Salmon and Ball in Bethnal Green is not the only house with that sign; and other local names of the past include: The Ball and Raven, The Green Man and Ball, the Blue Balls, The Ring and Ball, and many others.”

No idea if this is the true origin of the name, but an interesting possibility.

My next stop was very close, and it was a short walk to:

Site 50 – Early 19th Century Terrace

This location was just opposite the church, a narrow street that runs parallel to Cambridge Heath Road and that goes by the name of Paradise Row. For the main part of the street, houses run along one side, with the opposite side formed by Paradise Gardens, which in February really did not live up to the name.

The terrace of houses in Paradise Row taken from within Paradise Gardens:

Bethnal Green

There is a blue plaque on one of the houses recording that Daniel Mendoza lived in the house:

Bethnal Green

Daniel Mendoza was a fascinating character. A boxer, or pugilist who became heavyweight champion between 1792 and 1795. In an age when it was common to advertise yourself with a memorable name. As the plaque states he proudly billed himself as ‘Mendoza the Jew’ in honour of his Jewish heritage. For an example of how other boxers billed themselves, Mendoza’s first recorded successful prize fight was against the wonderfully named ‘Harry the Coalheaver’.

The plaque refers to Mendoza living in Paradise Row when he was writing ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In the 18th century, boxing was mainly a punching, grappling, gouging match between two fighters.

Mendoza advocated a more formal, scientific approach to boxing which he set out in his book ‘The Art of Boxing‘. In his preface to the book, Mendoza explains his approach and the reasons why boxing should have a more scientific method:

“After the many marks of encouragement bestowed on me by a generous public, I thought that I could not better evince my gratitude for such favours, than by disseminating to as wide an extent, and at as cheap a rate as possible, the knowledge of an ART; which though not perhaps the most elegant, is certainly the most useful species of defence. To render it not totally devoid of elegance has, however, been my present aim, and the ideas of coarseness and vulgarity which are naturally attached to the Science of Pugilism, will, I trust, be done away, by a candid perusal of the following pages.

Boxing is a national mode of combat, and as is peculiar to the inhabitants of this country; as Fencing is to the French; but the acquisition of the latter as an art, and the practice of it as an exercise, have generally been preferred in consequence of the objection which I have just stated as being applicable to the former.

The objection I hope, the present treatise will obviate, and I flatter myself that I have deprived Boxing of any appearance of brutality to the learner, and reduced it into so regular a system, as to render it equal to fencing, in point of neatness, activity, and grace.

The Science of Pugilism may, therefore, with great propriety, be acquired, even though the scholar should feel actuated by no desire of engaging in a contest, or defending himself from an insult.

Those who are unwilling to risque any derangement of features in a real boxing match, may, at least, venture to practice the Art from sportiveness and sparring is productive of health and spirits as it is both an exercise and an amusement.

The great object of my present publication has been to explain with perspicuity, the Science of Pugilism, and it has been my endeavour to offer no precepts which will not be brought to bear in practice, and it will give me peculiar satisfaction and pleasure to understand, that I have attained my first object, by having taught any man an easy regular system of so useful an Art as that of Boxing.”

Daniel Mendoza put his approach into practice throughout his career. He was highly successful and his name became very well known across the country. He made (and lost) a considerable sum of money.

His most famous fights were against Richard Humphreys, his former trainer and mentor. These fights were captured in a series of etchings (©Trustees of the British Museum), published very soon after the fights.

In the following we see the first fight held on the 9th January 1788 in Odiham in Hampshire

Bethnal Green

Mendoza lost the fight and the following etching “Foul Play” shows how Mendoza lost the fight through the actions of Tom Johnson, Humphreys second, who blocked a blow from Mendoza:

Bethnal Green

In perhaps an early version of the tension built up in advance of fights today, in the 18th century Mendoza and Humphreys traded insults and accusations at each other through a series of letters published in newspapers across the country.

In a letter written on the 16th January 1788 when Mendoza was living in London at No. 9, White Street, Houndsditch, Mendoza set forth three propositions for how the next fight should take place. He finishes the letter with:

“The acceptance or denial of Mr. Humphries to the third proposition, will impress the public with an additional opinion of his superior skill, or they must conclude that he is somewhat conscious of his inferiority in scientific knowledge. In imitation of the challenge of Mr. Humphries, I shall not distress him for an immediate reply, but leave him to consult his friends, and his own feelings, and send an answer at his leisure.”

Mendoza wrote a follow up letter on the 27th January 1788:

“To prevent the tedious necessity of a reference to the several letters which I have written, and which have appeared in your paper, I am induced to take my leave of the public, with the insertion once more of the conditions of my challenge to Mr. Humphreys, and I beg that the world will consider them as open to the acceptance of that gentleman, whenever he may think better of his boxing abilities.

The first condition is, that I will fight him for 250 guineas a side, the second, the victor to have the door, the third, the man who first closes to be the loser, fourth and last, the time of fighting to be in the October Newmarket meeting.

Mr. Humphreys would do well to insert this challenge in his private memorandum-book; and as a teacher of the art of boxing, it would not be amiss to have it penned, neatly framed, and hung up in his truly scientific academy.”

Letters continued and finally Humphries accepted the challenge, writing on the 31st July 1788:

“I have seen your letter, and accept your challenge. I am glad that you have at last found out your own mind. The terms shall be settled at a meeting which I will appoint by private letter to you.”

After the loss of the first fight, Mendoza won the next two fights. The following etching shows what looks to be the closing stages of the fight on the 6th May 1789 with Mendoza on the left and a collapsing Humphreys on the right.

Bethnal Green

After his boxing career declined in the 1790s, Mendoza pursued a number of other money making opportunities including landlord of the Admiral Nelson in Whitechapel, the occasional boxing match, running his own academy, and also what today would probably be classed as a ‘bouncer’ at the Covent Garden Theatre.

The theatre management were attempting to increase ticket prices, which resulted in riots and protests in the theatre.

“It is a notorious fact that the Managers of Covent-Garden Theatre have both yesterday and today furnished Daniel Mendoza, the fighting Jew, with a prodigious number of Pit Orders for Covent-Garden Theatre, which he has distributed to Dutch Sam, and such other of the pugilistic tribe as would attend and engage to assault every person who had the courage to express their disapprobation of the Managers’ attempt to rain down the new prices.”

In another newspaper report, Daniel Mendoza was reported as being at the head of “150 fighting Jews and hired Braizers, as Constables.” His actions supporting the theatre management did not help his popularity with Londoners as he was seen to be supporting the theatre management rather than the common theatre goer.

I can find very little information on Daniel Mendoza’s family. He appears to have had two sons and a daughter. One son also named Daniel (so presumably the eldest son) appears in a number of newspaper reports accused of robbery and also wounding a man with a penknife.

In another newspaper report, his married daughter along with another woman were reported as being assaulted by two cab drivers.

Daniel Mendoza died in September 1836. his lasting legacy were the changes to boxing through his approach to ‘scientific boxing’ which started the move of boxing towards a rules based sport.

The contest between Daniel Mendoza and Richard Humphreys was still being used as an example of sporting excellence many years later, as shown in this Guinness advert from 1960:

Bethnal Green

The view from Mendoza’s house on Paradise Row must look very different today, with the volume of traffic on the Cambridge Heath Road, but good to see this terrace of houses still standing.

To get to my next location, I walked along the Cambridge Heath Road, passing the V&A Museum of Childhood, then turned into Old Ford Road, opposite this mix of buildings, including the Dundee Arms pub:

Bethnal Green

Along Old Ford Road is the York Hall leisure centre, swimming pool and in a link with Daniel Mendoza once one of Europe’s most significant boxing venues:

Bethnal Green

To the right of York Hall was part of my next location:

Site 52 – 17th Century Nettleswell House With Adjoining Late 18th Century Terrace: Across Road, Early 18th Century Terrace

This is the early 18th century terrace, across the road from Nettleswell House on Old Ford Road:

Bethnal Green

To get a view of Nettleswell House I turned off Old Ford Road into Victoria Park Square. It was difficult to get a good view of the buildings as they are concealed behind a tall brick wall, however they look in fine condition.

Bethnal Green

Nettleswell House is a Grade II listed building. The listing states that the building is late 17th century with early 18th century alterations.

There must have been an earlier building on the same site, with the same name as the listing also records what is on the plaque, just visible on the house in the above photo “Netteswell House – AD1553 – Remodelled 1705 and 1862″

In my post on “New Deal For East London – Stepney Green” I found one of the buildings built by the East End Dwellings Company – Dunstan House on Stepney Green. Walking along Victoria Park Square I found another. Montford House was built by the company in 1901, two years after the Stepney Green building.

Bethnal Green

The name apparently is a reference to Simon de Montford and there are stories that he was blinded at the Battle of Evesham 1265 and became a beggar in Bethnal Green (the same story is sometimes given as the source of the name of the Blind Beggar pub).

In reality, Simon de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham and was buried at Evesham Abbey, along with Henry, one of his sons. His other son, also called Simon did arrive in Evesham, but too late to help the cause of his father. He later escaped to France.

There are a good number of the buildings of the East London Dwellings Company remaining.  One of my ever growing list of projects is to map and photograph all their buildings.

Further along Victoria Park Square, I found my next location:

Site 51 – 1700 Group Behind Gardens

Along one side of Victoria Park Square is a magnificent group of buildings, all in good repair, and as indicated by the Architects’ Journal title for these buildings, they all stand back from the street, separated by a good sized front garden.

Some include some rather ornate ironwork between street and garden:

Bethnal Green

The terrace:

Bethnal Green

There is some fascinating architecture along this one street, including what looks to have once been a private chapel built as a rather strange extension to the house behind:

Bethnal Green

Finding this terrace was the last of four locations in Bethnal Green. I then walked down to Stepney, so to complete the post, here are some of the buildings to be found on the route from Bethnal Green to Mile End Road, along Cambridge Heath Road.

This building is along Roman Road, alongside Bethnal Green Gardens.

Bethnal Green

The building is Swinburne House and it demonstrates the change during the early decades of the 20th century from housing built by philanthropic organisations such as the East End Dwellings Company to council built properties.

A stone on the front of the building records that the stone was laid on the 1st July 1922 to commemorate the erection of 166 dwellings by Bethnal Green Borough Council. The names of the housing committee are also recorded.

Bethnal Green

Along Cambridge Heath Road is this closed factory building, Moarain House:

Bethnal Green

I believe that this was the factory of umbrella manufacturers Solomon Schaverien. Many of their umbrellas include a label with the name Moarain on the inside of the umbrella.

I would not be surprised if the factory was replaced by an apartment building in the next few years.

Just after Moarain House, the railway from Liverpool Street Station crosses Cambridge Heath Road. All the railway arches along Malcolm Place have been closed off, and the typical businesses that normally occupy railway arches (car wash, car repair, tyres, light manufacturing etc.) have all moved out.

Bethnal Green

Network Rail are planning to redevelop these arches and the application for planning permission submitted to Tower Hamlets Council shows a row of arches with glazed brick for the piers, glass and stainless steel fascia – very different to the arches as they are now.

The proposed use of the arches are as a cafe, restaurant, drinking establishment, retail, light industrial and warehousing. No doubt increasing revenue for Network Rail, but another loss of the traditional use of railway arches by small businesses in East London.

After passing under the railway I was soon at Mile End Road for the locations in my previous post. It was good to see that all the sites listed in 1973 are still to be found in Bethnal Green, and in good condition.

I find these walks fascinating not just by seeing if the sites listed in the Architects’ Journal have survived, but also the chance finds along the way, and in this walk opening a window on the world of boxing in the late 18th century, another building by the East London Dwellings Company and the evolution from charity to council construction of homes.

I am now almost through all 85 sites listed in 1973, just a couple of groups of buildings to visit, in Greenwich and the area running north and west along the River Lea / Bow Creek. Hopefully these walks will not be as windy and cold as my walk through Bethnal Green.

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Chiswick House And Gardens

I had not been intending to write about Chiswick House and Gardens for today’s post. I had been planning to write about one my father’s photos, one showing a street with the open space remaining from the clearance of bombed buildings. I tracked down the street and found gardens occupying the space where I thought the bombed buildings had been, however when I started writing the post, I checked the photos in more detail, aligned with some old maps, including the LCC Bomb Damage Maps, and found I had taken photos of the wrong end of the street.

I usually get the location right before I visit, however this time I missed some obvious architectural features which I should have seen whilst walking the street.

I will need to go back and photo the correct part of the street, so for today I have fallen back on a recent trip out to Chiswick, to visit Chiswick House and Gardens.

Chiswick House and Gardens are found just to the west of the Hogarth roundabout, between two busy roads, the A4 which runs out to the M4 motorway and the A316 which runs to the south west and crosses the River Thames over Chiswick Bridge. It is a busy and densely built area of west London.

The original Chiswick House was constructed in the 1620s, at a time when country houses were being built in the area, to take advantage of the benefits of being relatively close to London with the river providing access to the City.

The house was inherited by Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1715. At the same time he also inherited Burlington House in Piccadilly, which became his London house.

Rather than use the house in Chiswick as a family residence, he planned to build a new house where he could use the architectural inspiration from his Grand Tours of Europe, and would also house the collections he had gathered touring Europe and where he could entertain.

The new house was built between 1726 and 1729, just to the north west of the original house.

Work on the gardens continued until the 1740s and the inspiration for many of the buildings that were distributed around the gardens would also come from his experiences during the Grand Tours. The Grand Tour was part of the education of an 18th century aristocrat, with months travelling through France, Germany and Italy to provide experience of the major European cultures. The majority of these tours would have Italy as their main destination. The tours were also used to build collections and many aristocratic residences of the time would be full of purchases made during the Grand Tour.

Chiswick House and Gardens passed through generations of the Dukes of Devonshire after Richard Boyle’s death in 1753. The 5th Duke demolished the original 17th century Chiswick House. The 6th Duke of Devonshire made significant changes to the gardens in 1811 with the purchase of additional land and the construction of formal gardens and the large conservatory.

Use of the house changed during the later years of the 19th century. The house was let to a number of different tenants and for a period was used as a lunatic asylum.

In 1929, Chiswick House and Gardens were sold by the 9th Duke of Devonshire to Middlesex County Council who opened the gardens as a public park.

After the war, the house was in need of serious restoration and whilst the gardens remained with the council, the house passed to the Ministry of Works in 1948.

Today, the house and gardens are managed by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, set-up by the London Borough of Hounslow and English Heritage.

The gardens are free to enter, and despite some of the land being sold over the years as Chiswick land was needed for building, there are still 65 acres of gardens to explore with many of the original features from the time of Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.

English Heritage manage the house and charge a fee for entry. Unfortunately there are also signs banning photography inside the house. Walking the house, it is clear it was not designed as a home, but does provide a series of rooms designed for the display or art and sculpture, and there are still a significant number of works on display today.

If you enter from the entrance along the A316, Burlington Lane, this is the view of the house:

Chiswick House

The same view of the house in 1796.

Chiswick House

The following photo shows the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

Slightly to the side of the above photo is a long walkway leading up to the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

The following view from around 1770 shows the rear of the house with the lawns lined with large urns atop pedestals – much as can be seen in the gardens today.

Chiswick House

In the photo of the rear of the house shown above, steps can be seen leading up to a gallery from which the following view was drawn in around 1770.

Chiswick House

In the above view, a set of statues can be seen set in the hedge that forms the end of the large open area at the rear of the house.

I do not know if they are the same statues, however in the same place today, statues can be found in alcoves cut into the hedge at the far end of the lawns at the rear of the house.

Chiswick House

The Ionic Temple seen from across the lake. The design of the gardens incorporates long walks with a building, obelisk, or some other feature which can be seen the full length of the walk.

Chiswick House

Artists easels with 18th century views from the same spot can be found across the gardens. A very imaginative feature, and it is easy to picture an 18th century artist sitting at the same place, drawing the same view.

Chiswick House

The view looking down one of the walks with an obelisk in frount of the gate at the Burlington Lane entrance.

Chiswick House

A large artificial river runs across the full length of the gardens from the north west to the south east. Towards the north western end of the lake is this classically designed bridge.

Chiswick House

The view looking along the length of the river towards the south eastern end of the gardens from the bridge.

Chiswick House

And the view from the opposite side of the bridge.

Chiswick House

Standing on the bridge and looking at the views along the lake it is hard to believe that this is west London, however there is a constant reminder of where we are in the sky overhead. Chiswick House is a short distance from Heathrow Airport and under one of the flight paths and on the day I was there, a continuous procession of aircraft flew overhead coming into land.

Chiswick House

But the wildlife on the lake seems blissfully unaware of the planes flying overhead.

Chiswick House

The amphitheater, another obelisk and the Ionic temple.

Chiswick House

A statue of Venus rising above the trees atop a doric column.

Chiswick House

The gardens are also home to a rather large conservatory. Built by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1813, the building is 302 feet in length.

Chiswick House

During the later years of the 20th century, the conservatory was almost derelict and the collection of rare camellia trees housed in the conservatory was in serious danger. Considerable restoration work was carried out, completed in 2010 and the conservatory today looks magnificent.

The view from the conservatory to the formal gardens.

Chiswick House

The camellia collection that runs the length of the conservatory is considered of international importance. The collection includes some trees surviving from the Duke of Devonshire’s original collection. The camellia trees were all dense green leaves during my visit, but must look magnificent when in flower.

Chiswick House

Inside the conservatory are two Coade stone vases. These were originally outside the conservatory, alongside steps leading down to the gardens. They were manufactured at the Coade stone factory in Lambeth, on the southbank of the river by Westminster Bridge.

Chiswick House

The Inigo Jones Gateway, on the pathway between the conservatory and the house.

Chiswick House

A walk around Chickwick House and Gardens provides a wonderful break from the busy city streets and if it were not for the planes flying into Heathrow, you could be walking through a country park set in the countryside rather than west London.

Chiswick House and Gardens are a short distance from Hogarth’s House, and a visit to both provides a snapshot of 18th century Chiswick.

Now to find the time to go back and photograph the correct end of a London street.

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Faulkner’s Alley, Cowcross Street

Cowcross Street runs from just north of Smithfield Market, past Farringdon Station where the street becomes Turnmill Street and then continues up to Clerkenwell Road. All these streets have a fascinating history, however for today’s post I want to focus on a single alley, Faulkner’s Alley which can be found in Cowcross Street just before reaching Farringdon Station.

My father took the following three photos of Faulkner’s Alley in 1947:

Faulkner's Alley

As I work through my father’s photos I am more and more convinced that I should switch back to black and white film. The combination of getting the lighting right, and black and white is perfect for this type photography.

Faulkner's Alley

In the above photo there is a sign reading “M&V Coenca – First Floor”. I assume this refers to a business, but I have been unable to find any details of their trade.

I am fascinated by the placing of the chair, what I assume to be a pram and the street lamp.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley runs between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, although originally it was much longer. To find the Cowcross Street entrance, walk past the entrance to Farringdon Station towards Smithfield Market and a short distance after the Castle pub is the gated entrance to Faulkner’s Alley.

Faulkner's Alley

The entrance looks as if it is a pedestrian entrance to the same area as the much larger entrance on the right, however there is a wall running back between the two entrances so they are completely separate entrances.

Unfortunately the gate was locked during my visit, so all I could get was a view through the gate showing a similar alley to that in my father’s photos.

Faulkner's Alley

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Faulkner’s Alley in the centre of the map, between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street. If you follow across Benjamin Street, there is a continuation of an alley indicating that Faulkner’s Alley probably once extended much further.

Faulkner's Alley

As the entrance in Cowcross Street was locked I walked round to Benjamin Street to see if the entrance there was open, as in the past it has always been possible to walk through the alley.

Faulkner's Alley

However I was rather shocked by what I found. The southern side of Benjamin Street is now a building site.

Faulkner's Alley

Which extends a considerable distance along the street. Just here on the right is where the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley was once located.

Faulkner's Alley

It was a similar gated entrance to the one in Cowcross Street, with the same style of ironwork and name above the gate.

I had a look at the planning applications on the Islington Council web site and found the application relating to the building work in Benjamin Street.

The application covers the demolition of the existing buildings and the build of a 6 storey building on Turnmill Street and 5 storey building on Benjamin Street, with both buildings being linked by a 4 storey building. The new building will comprise retail, office and 4 residential units.

The plans show Faulkner’s Alley will still run from Cowcross Street to Benjamin Street and there will be a gate onto Benjamin Street as part of the new build. Along the alley will be a courtyard and residential reception. I wonder with the new development whether Faulkner’s Alley will continue to accessible to the public or with the new residential and office build, it will only be accessible to those living or working in the buildings.

The site is owned by the Girdlers’ Company (one of the City’s livery companies) so hopefully Faulkner’s Alley will have a restoration that recognises its history and as a public alley, although I do worry when I read on the architects’ web site that the alley will be “enhanced” as part of the project.

Along the wooden hoarding, there is a small display of excavation findings which include some Tudor brick, medieval tiles and clay pipes:

Faulkner's Alley

We can get an impression of Faulkner’s Alley in previous centuries from newspaper reports. Some examples:

From the London City Press on the 9th April 1864 in an article on overcrowding in the city:

“I may mention that I found one family with but two moderate sized rooms, in Faulkner’s Alley, had taken in six railway navvies as lodgers. Even if they spend little more time in-doors than what they require for sleep, that is time enough to breed a fever, as was the case in this instance, for one of the lodgers had been prostrated by typhus fever, and sent by the Union authorities to the Fever Hospital.”

From the Islington Gazette on the 9th July 1877:

“A SINGULAR CASE – Dr. Hardwicke held an inquest at the St. Andrew’s Board Room, Great James-street, Holborn, on Friday, concerning the death of a newly-born male child, which was found on a doorstep in Faulkner’s-alley, Clerkenwell, and for which a woman of the name of Mohan is under remand, charged on suspicion with having deposited the child. The facts in connection with this case were reported in the proceedings at the Clerkenwell Police-court, and it will be remembered that on Tuesday night, about 10 o’clock, a constable stated that he saw the woman in question go into Faulkner’s-alley and stoop down, but whether she placed anything on a doorstep he could not say. Upon going up the alley a short time afterwards, however, a brown-paper parcel containing the body of a child much decomposed was found. The woman Mohan denied that she knew anything about the child, and the jury returned a verdict that the child was found dead in a state of decomposition, and that the evidence was insufficient to show the cause of death. They also added that they were of the opinion that the police were in error in charging Sarah Mohan.”

The London City Press on the 5th September 1863 included an article titled “Old Smithfield and its Precincts – A Sanitary and Antiquarian Ramble” where the author took a walk around the area and described what he saw, including this description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“Passing up Cowcross-street to Smithfield-bars, there are some quaint houses and shops. Part of the frounts in Faulkner’s-alley are of wood, and are worth notice.  And here, as well as in some other confined places where the people are very poor, there are, considering the situations, wonderful displays of window plants and flowers. We would, however, just hint that in some instances the windows are so crowded with drooping and other greenery, that it interferes to a great extent with the proper admission of light and with ventilation.”

A report in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 4th September 1878 on the Princess Alice disaster, when the steamboat the Princess Alice was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle near Woolwich, included a list of the survivors, one of which was Mary Brent of Faulkner’s Alley. There was no accurate record of the number on board the steamer, or the number that died, however the Pall Mall Gazette reported that between 700 and 800 people were on board, and the number dead or missing was in the order of 700 – so Mary Brent was one of the few, very lucky, survivors.

The book “London – Alleys, Byways and Courts” by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924, also includes a brief description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“A few yards past here on the left, by No. 31, is the alley with the wooden frontage, with its name, Faulkner’s Alley, at the top. This old wooden front dates from about 1660 when the alley was formed, and built in.”

The book also includes the following drawing of the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley from Cow Cross Street:

Faulkner's Alley

We can trace the development of the alley over the centuries. In 1746 Faulkner’s Alley was shown in John Rocque’s map:

Faulkner's Alley

In Rocque’s map, the alley extended across Benjamin Street into what is now the edge of St. John’s Gardens. The map also provides a clue to the origin of the name.

In 1746 Rocque labelled the alley Faulconers Alley which may possibly have some reference to the Falcon bird, as Faulcon was an early spelling for the bird, a name with French origins, and the word Faulconer was given to the person who would look after the birds. I have not been able to find any written reference as to why this name should have been used for the alley.

Going back further, Ogilby’s map of 1676 shows the alley as a much longer alley. Unfortunately Ogilby does not provide the name of the alley as it would be interesting to see if the name was the same as in 1746.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley was a good example of the type of alley that was once so common across the city. My father’s photos from 1947 show the alley much as it must have been during the 19th century and possibly earlier – a narrow alley with tall, brick-built buildings lining the alley occupied by people and businesses.

I hope that when the building on Benjamin Street is complete, Faulkner’s Alley is open again and that whatever “enhancement” has been made during building work, Faulkner’s Alley retains much of its original character.

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St. Chad’s Place And A Lost Well

There are places in London where the subterranean history of the city touches the surface and it is easy to imagine finding long lost geological features beneath the city streets.

This post is about one such place that I found whilst hunting for the location of this photo that my father took in 1986:

St. Chad's Place

My 2018 photo of the same location:

St. Chad's Place

I am in King’s Cross Road, a street that runs from Pentonville Road to Farringdon Road. The building was the location of Dodds the Printers in 1986 who occupied numbers 193 and 195.

I am not sure when the business closed in King’s Cross Road, however I believe it was relatively recently. The shop front has changed and the lovely signage above the shop has disappeared, however the terrace of 19th century buildings are much the same.

On the right side of both photos is an alley disappearing through the buildings. This is St. Chad’s Place. The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location. St. Chad’s Place can be seen running left to right in the middle of the map – suitable for vehicles to just after crossing the rail lines where it turns into a pedestrian alley, with a sharp bend and a narrow stretch running up to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

This is the type of view I love – a small alley to explore:

St. Chad's Place

Walking into St. Chad’s Place from King’s Cross Road, you first pass through the terrace lining King’s Cross Road before continuing down a narrow stretch between high brick walls.

Looking back towards King’s Cross Road:

St. Chad's Place

At the end of the narrow stretch, the alley does a 90 degree bend and opens out slightly:

St. Chad's Place

This is the view back down the alley with the buildings lining King’s Cross Road in the distance:

St. Chad's Place

The alley passes a number of old brick, industrial buildings, gently rising in height. Half way along the alley there are high metal walls. This is where St. Chad’s Place passes over a railway.

St. Chad's Place

It is just possible to peer over the top of the metal walls and look at the railway beneath. This is the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon.

The railway was built below street level, using a mix of cut and cover, as well as leaving the railway in an open cutting, as in the stretch that passes underneath St. Chad’s Place.

The route today is used by Thameslink trains and the London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. In the following photo, looking south towards Farringdon is a Thameslink train, with the red of an underground train just visible to the upper right.

St. Chad's Place

The railway cuts a wide path between King’s Cross and Farringdon, but for the most part is not that visible. Walking along King’s Cross Road or Gray’s Inn Road, you would not know there is a railway running close by, it is only when you walk through the streets between these major roads that you pass over, and get a view of the cutting through this part of the city.

This is the view looking north from St. Chad’s Place where the railway runs into King’s Cross, St. Pancras underground station:

St. Chad's Place

The building of the railway must have been very disruptive to the area. Streets were cut off and before construction of the railway could start, demolition of hundreds of houses, factories, warehouses and workshops was required.

The following print shows the building of the railway near King’s Cross:

St. Chad's Place

Walking up towards Gray’s Inn Road, this is the view back down St. Chad’s Place. A narrow, cobbled roadway in the centre, sloping down to where the blue metal wall of the railway can be seen on the right.

St. Chad's Place

The black sign on the left is for Meat Liquor bar and restaurant, probably the main reason for anyone to walk down St. Chad’s Place. Apart from the person sitting outside the restaurant, I did not see anyone else walk through for the whole time I was in St. Chad’s Place.

At the top is the junction with Gray’s Inn Road.

St. Chad's Place

A walk through St. Chad’s Place is a glimpse of the many old alleys that once ran between major streets (I will be writing about one that is in the process of disappearing in a future post), and the view of the railway provides an insight into what is just below London’s surface, however, as usual, there is always more to discover.

Starting with the name, St. Chad’s Place, this is an indication of what was once here.

The route of the River Fleet was once alongside where King’s Cross Road now runs, and the geology of the area gave rise to a number of springs at Bagnigge Wells, Clerks’ Well (Clerkenwell), and a St. Chad’s Well. All running close to the River Fleet.

St. Chad’s Well was to be found at the junction of St. Chad’s Place and Gray’s Inn Road.

The well was very popular in the middle of the 18th century, with around 1,000 visitors a week travelling along Gray’s Inn Road to take the waters.

The following advert from the 29th May 1807 edition of the Morning Advertiser gives an impression of how St. Chad’s Well was sold to Londoners:

“St. Chad’s Wells – Health restored and preserved, by drinking the Battle-Bridge Waters, commonly called St. Chad’s Wells, formerly dedicated to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. These Waters are recommended by the most eminent Physicians as the best Purging Waters in England, they are found highly efficacious in removing all Complaints which affect the Urinary Passages such as Stone, Gravel, etc, They likewise cure the Scurvy, Bile, Worms, Piles, Indigestion, Nervous Complaints, Seminal Weaknesses, and various other Disorders too numerous for an advertisement. Several attestations of their wonderful Effects may be seen in the Pump room.

N.B. These Waters may be drank every morning, at 4d each Person, or delivered at the Pump-Room at 8d per gallon. The Gate leading to the Wells opens at the end of Gray’s Inn-lane Road, near the Turnpike.”

The name Battle-Bridge Waters refers to the Battle Bridge, a brick arched bridge over the River Fleet just north of St. Chad’s Place. The name Battle Bridge is often taken to refer to a battle fought here between Boadicea and the Roman army, however this is very unlikely as the name in medieval manorial court rolls was Bradeford Bridge.

Chad refers to a 7th century Mercian churchman who founded the first monastery in Lichfield. St. Chad allegedly preached at Stowe, just outside the centre of Lichfield , and a medieval St. Chad’s Church was built at Stowe along with a holy well with St. Chad’s name. This association with a well could be why the well in Gray’s Inn Road took St. Chad’s name – a more virtuous, health promoting name than Battle Bridge.

The following print from 1850 show the St. Chad’s Well pump house, built close to Gray’s Inn Road. At the rear of the house, gardens stretched back towards King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

By the time of the above print, the well was declining in popularity. I cannot find exactly when St. Chad’s Well closed, however St. Chad’s Place was built over part of the garden in 1830 and the majority of the gardens were lost in 1860 when the Metropolitan Line was built. I suspect it was the building of the railway which finally swept away the well.

Now this is where this post starts to get very speculative.

I am sure though of the route of the River Fleet. I have checked a number of sources, including the book “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers (a well researched and illustrated history of London’s lost rivers and their routes through the city) as well as “The History of the River Fleet” by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, and they all show the River Fleet running along the western edge of King’s Cross Road, under where St. Chad’s Place meets King’s Cross Road.

The River Fleet is also shown on the OpenStreetMap extract, running parallel to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad’s Place descends very gradually as you head from Gray’s Inn Road towards King’s Cross Road, which could be expected for a spring rising near Gray’s Inn Road running through the gardens of the pump-room and down to the River Fleet.

As I walked along St. Chad’s Place, the sunlight glinting off running water below a small grating in the middle of the cobbled street caught my eye.

It was hard to judge the depth, but it must have been around 10 to 15 feet below the road surface. It looked to be a fast flow of clean water, and yes I did take a sniff and it did not smell like a sewer.

St. Chad's Place

I have no evidence to support this, apart from the view through the grating, however it is interesting to imagine that perhaps the waters of the St. Chad’s Well still rise here, and run along St. Chad’s Place, heading towards the River Fleet.

They would now be cut off by the cutting made for the Metropolitan Railway, however perhaps there is a pipe that carries them across, or a separate sewer that runs along the western edge of the railway.

Walking back towards King’s Cross Road, and where St. Chad’s Place passes through the building facing King’s Cross Street, there is a run of old paving slabs, and an old manhole cover.

St. Chad's Place

This is exactly where the River Fleet is shown to run parallel to Kings Cross Road.

If you walk past 193 and 195 King’s Cross Road, take a detour into St. Chad’s Place. Walk up to Gray’s Inn Road and you will cross the River Fleet, the original Metropolitan Railway and the site of St. Chad’s Well – not bad for a couple of minutes walk.

And with some imagination, perhaps you will also see the waters of St. Chad’s Well still running beneath a small, four hole grating.

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New Deal For East London – Stepney Green

I am still working through the locations featured in the 1973 Architects’ Journal “New Deal for East London” special issue where a range of locations, deemed to be at possible risk from future development were identified.

My first post on this subject with the full background to the 1973 article can be found here.

For today’s post I am in Mile End and Stepney Green, tracing the sites numbered 44 to 48, 61 and 62 as shown in the following map extract from the 1973 article (I covered site 46, the church of St. Dunstan’s a couple of weeks ago).

Stepney Green

The Architects’ Journal identified Stepney as a Medieval Village Centre, but one that had been absorbed by the growth of east London over the past couple of centuries. I have reproduced the same locations in an up to date map, shown below, from OpenStreetMap.

Stepney Green

There is so much history in this area that a much longer post is needed to cover fully, so my focus for today is seeing how many of the 1973 Architects’ Journal locations remain, and their current condition.

My first location was in Mile End Road:

Site 44 – 1695 Trinity Almshouses

The Trinity Almshouses were built in 1695 by the Corporation of Trinity House for “28 decayed Masters and Commanders of ships or ye widows of such”. The land for the almshouses was donated by a Captain Henry Mudd and they consist of two rows of cottages either side of a green, with a chapel at the far end of the green.

Stepney Green

For many years after construction, the almshouses were in a very rural Mile End. The following extract from John Rocque’s map from 1746 shows the almshouses in the centre of the map, surrounded by agricultural land and fields.

Stepney Green

The roads leading north from Mile End Road, either side of the almshouses have some interesting names. Dog Row on the left (now Cambridge Heath Road) and Red Cow Lane on the right (now Cleveland Way). Mile End Road leading through Mile End Old Town was a wide street here in 1746 as it is today.

Captain Fishers Ale House is at the end of Dog Row (I wonder how many of the decayed Masters and Commanders of ships frequented the ale house), and a Turn Pike could be found across Mile End Road opposite Dog Row.

The following engraving from Chamberlain’s History of London published in 1770 shows a rather impressive view of the almshouses as they appeared at the time.

Stepney Green

The almshouses have been under threat many times since 1695. The Corporation of Trinity House petitioned the Charity Commissioners for permission to demolish the almshouses in the 1890s, permission was refused.

They suffered bomb damage during the last war, but were repaired by the GLC, with the chapel being fitted with 18th century paneling from a house in Hammersmith.

Spitalfields Life has documented the recent threats to the almshouses

Where they reach Mile End Road, the two rows of cottages are terminated by rather ornate gable ends:

Stepney Green

A plaque on the gable ends records the origins of the almshouses:

Stepney Green

In the 1770 engraving, some rather impressive model ships can be seen on the gable ends. Model ships can still be seen today, however these are now fibreglass replicas with the original marble models being stored in the Museum of London.

Stepney Green

The almshouses feature in the top right of this mural by Mychael Barratt which can be found a short distance from the almshouses:

Stepney Green

There is also a statue to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army which was unveiled in 1979:

Stepney Green

And rightly there is also now a 2015 statue to Catherine Booth to acknowledge their joint enterprise to setting up the Salvation Army:

Stepney Green

To show just how much can be found in this short distance along Mile End Road, further along can be found this entrance to a car park and a number of businesses, however the wall on the left records an example of the type of destruction that the Architects’ Journal was so concerned about.

In 1958, fifteen years before the article was published, the site of the wall was occupied by the house that Captain James Cook occupied for a number of years in the 18th century.

Stepney Green

The buildings either side of Cook’s house were not demolished, the apparent reason for the demolition was to widen the lane, but there was no reason then, or today, for a wider lane leading off here from Mile End Road.

It is a perfect example of the random demolition that took place in the decades after the 1940s that Cook’s house was destroyed, but the adjacent terrace of buildings was left in place, which is my next location:

Site 61 – Late 18th Century Terrace

Running to the east along Mile End Road from the location of Cook’s house is this row of late 18th century buildings:

Stepney Green

The terrace consists of a fascinating mix of different architectural styles and modifications to the buildings. In the following example, a bay window on the first floor extends over Assembly Passage – a long, cobbled walkway that leads from Mile End Road to Redmans Road.

Stepney Green

Across the road is the Genesis Cinema – a restored cinema (which originally opened in 1912) in a location that had been occupied by a pub, theatre and palace of varieties.

Stepney Green

A short distance along Mile End Road from the cinema is the next Architects’ Journal location:

Site 48 – Early 18th Century Group

A lovely group of four terrace houses – it took a while to get this photo without any traffic, there is a continuous stream of traffic along Mile End Road.

Stepney Green

Further along Mile End Road is:

Site 62 – Early 18th Century Group

A pair of large 18th century houses, set back from the road with small gardens between house and street.

Stepney Green

To the right of the buildings is a Topps Tiles warehouse and on the left is a small open space, then the new buildings on the site of the old Anchor Brewery.

The Architects’ Journal definition for this site was a ‘Group’ rather than a ‘Pair’ so I do wonder if there were additional houses in 1973 and this pair are all that remain.

The following location was not so lucky:

Site 45 – Mutilated Early 18th Century Group

To reach my next destination I turned off Mile End Road, a short distance along Stepney Green, along Hannibal Road to Redmans Road to see if this early 18th century group remained.

If my reading of the Architects’ Journal map was right, then the terrace should have been in this location – space now occupied by the expanded playground of the Redlands School.

Stepney Green

The houses in 1973 must have been in some state as the Architects’ Journal description was the rather strong “mutilated group”. I checked on the excellent London Metropolitan Archives Collage image archive and found this photo from 1971 of a terrace of houses along 42 to 48 Redmans Road – the space now occupied by the playground extension.

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_397_71_642

The boards to the side of the doors on the central houses indicate that the houses were used in the clothing trade, with the board on the right advertising machinist vacancies.

I am sure this is the right location as to the left of the above photo, the edge of a post war terrace of flats can be seen, which are still there today as shown in my photo below.

Stepney Green

I assume the description of mutilated indicates that the buildings have been considerably changed from their original 18th century design and structure.

I then turned back along Redmans Road to the next location:

Site 47 – Early 18th Century Remains At Stepney Green

Mile End Road is very busy, with what seems like endless traffic streaming both into and away from the City. Walk the short distance to Stepney Green and the environment changes completely. I walked through Stepney Green on a cold grey day in February and a warmer, but still grey day at the end of April, when the trees were coming into leaf and bird song was louder than the distant traffic.

The main part of Stepney Green consists of two parallel streets with central gardens running between them. The eastern street is narrow and it is along this street where the majority of the older buildings are located.

In 1746, John Rocque’s map included what would become Stepney Green as a wide area running south from Mile End Road with houses mainly on the eastern edge. Houses with large back gardens with a large open field behind. In 1746 the area was called Mile End Old Town rather than Stepney Green.

Stepney Green

This is the view down the eastern side of the central green.

Stepney Green

The layout from 1746 can still be seen today as the 1746 map indicates a narrow street in front of the houses to the east, trees along the centre with a wider road on the western side – the same layout can be seen today.

The central gardens are tree-lined on either side with a pathway winding through the middle.

Stepney Green

The Architects’ Journal map shows houses on either side at the northern end of Stepney Green with additional houses marked on the eastern side. This distinctive terrace of four houses is along the northwest corner.

Stepney Green

The houses along the eastern edge tend to be larger, more individual buildings.

Stepney Green

One of the most important buildings in Stepney Green is number 37 – a magnificent Queen Anne house that was built in 1694. The  house was purchased by the Spitalfields Trust in 1998 who restored the house from institutional use to a rather magnificent family dwelling.

Number 37 Stepney Green:

Stepney Green

A closed pub on the western side of Stepney Green that has been converted to a private residence. Originally the Ship, then for a few years before closure, the Ship on the Green:

Stepney Green

The LMA Collage archive has a photo of the Ship as it was in 1953:

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_399_F8790

The view across Stepney Green.

Stepney Green

In the above photo, the house to the left of middle has an interesting plaque above the door. The house must have been occupied by a dispensary at some point as the plaque records that the equipment for the dispensary was provided by a fund raised by the Mayor of Stepney in memory of King Edward VII, for the prevention of consumption.

The corner of Stepney Green and Cressy Place is occupied by Dunstan Houses, built by the East End Dwellings Company Ltd in 1899:

Stepney Green

The East End Dwellings Company was formed in the early 1880s by the vicar of St. Jude’s, Whitechapel, the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett. The intention of the Company was to provide housing for the poor, including those who other philanthropic housing companies often avoided, such as casual, day labourers.

Stepney Green

Another of the large housing developments by late Victorian philanthropic companies can be found towards the southern end of Stepney Green.

Stepney Green Court was built by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company. The name of the company came from the plan that a four per cent return could be made on the investment needed to construct good housing which could be provided at an affordable rent.

Stepney Green Court was built in 1895.

Stepney Green

The building features some very ornate decoration:

Stepney Green

Towards the end of Stepney Green, where the central gardens and eastern side road have ended, is the remains of an interesting building.

On a small corner of the main Stepney Crossrail construction site are these brick walls and ornate entrance:

Stepney Green

These are the remains of a Baptist Chapel. The Crossrail Architectural and Historical Appraisal identifies the walls and door as the remains of a Baptist Chapel, possibly built around 1811.

The LMA Collage archive has a photo of the area showing that the remains of the Baptist Chapel were in a poor state in 1969.

Stepney Green

Image credit: London Metropolitan Archives, City of London: catalogue ref: SC_PHL_01_399_69_3379

All the buildings on the left have been demolished and the whole area is now a Crossrail construction site.

Entrance to the construction site:

Stepney Green

With the exception of the “mutilated early 18th century group” in Redmans Road the buildings listed in 1973 have survived well. The houses along Mile End Road face onto a very busy road  into the City, however turn off Mile End Road into Stepney Green and you can find one of those historic landscapes that London conceals so well.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the remains of the Baptist Chapel and the construction site, once work is completed – hopefully something that blends in with the area rather than bland apartment buildings that can be found anywhere across the city.

A the end of Stepney Green is the large churchyard and church of St. Dunstan and All Saints.

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Blake Hall Central Line Station And Greensted Church

Blake Hall Central Line Station and Greensted Church are a rather strange combination of subjects for a single post, however I hope the reason for combining these locations becomes clear.

Blake Hall Central Line Station

If you look at the following extract from a 1963 London Underground map, you can see the red of the Central Line extending at the top right corner from Epping, through North Weald and Blake Hall to Ongar.

This route out to rural Essex did not start as the Central Line. Built as a single track extension from Loughton to Ongar by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1865. This extension provided a direct route from Ongar, through Epping and Loughton, and then to central London, with fourteen trains a day making the full journey out to Ongar. The name of Blake Hall is after a country house with the same name, and as evidence of the very rural nature of the station’s location, the Blake Hall house is well over a mile away from the station. There appears to have been very little justification for a station at Blake Hall, however it may have been a requirement of the Blake Hall land owner, and a small goods yard for the distribution of coal and the collection of agricultural produce for delivery from the surrounding farms to the centre of London, probably also supported the provision of a station.

The extension of the Central Line, which had been delayed by the war, reached Loughton in 1948, with the original steam trains then continuing from Loughton on to Ongar. The route from Loughton to Epping was electrified in 1949, extending the Central Line further, and rather than leave the short route from Epping to Ongar under separate control, it was transferred to the London Transport Executive, but continuing to run steam trains.

In the 1950s, the line between Epping and Ongar was upgraded with a limited form of electrification allowing electric passenger trains to run, however goods trains continued to be powered by steam.

Due to its rural location, Blake Hall was the least used station on the London Underground network. The goods yard was closed in 1966 as the transport of goods moved from rail to road, and Sunday passenger services also ended in the same year.

Blake Hall continued as a stop on the Ongar extension of the Central Line, but was never going to attract the numbers of passengers which could justify keeping the station open.  Closure of the station was announced in 1981 and at the end of the October 1981 the last Central Line train stopped at Blake Hall and the station was closed on the 31st October 1981.

In August 1981 I took a trip out to Blake Hall to take a few photos of the station before closure, and last weekend I made another visit to see how the station had changed in the intervening 37 years.

At the Ongar end of Blake Hall station, there is a road bridge taking Blake Hall Road over the railway track. The bridge provides an excellent viewing point to see the station building, platform and track. This was my view of Blake Hall station in 1981:

Greensted Church

The same view in May 2018 (although at a slightly different angle as I had to move to a different point on the bridge as tree growth has completely obscured the view from the original position).

Greensted Church

The station buildings are now a private house. The platform is not the original platform. The original platform was demolished soon after closure, however the current platform was built in 2013 by the owner of the old station buildings. The new platform is much shorter in length than the original.

Another of my 1981 photos of Blake Hall station. I could not repeat this view today as trees have grown to completely obscure this view.

Greensted Church

In 1981 I also took some photos of the station entrance:

Greensted Church

Another view of the station entrance showing London Transport posters, advertising season tickets, and transport options to get to the Royal Tournament at Earls Court and Heathrow Airport.

Greensted Church

The old station building has been converted to a private home and the station approach road from Blake Hall Road is blocked by gates, so I could not get any photos of what the original station entrance looks like today.

This was the view in 1981 from the other side of the road bridge showing the track heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

The photo below shows the same view today. Note the additional rails in the above 1981 photo which provided the electrical supply to the trains.

Greensted Church

Although Blake Hall Station closed in 1981, the Epping to Ongar extension of the Central Line continued in operation until the 30th September 1994 when the line closed. Continuing losses and the lack of any future development in the area that would boost passenger numbers could not justify keeping the line in operation.

Soon after closure the line was purchased by a private company, with the intention of restarting train operation, however the failure to launch passenger trains led to the formation of the Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society who worked with the owner of the track and stations to restore the line between Ongar and North Weald to a point where diesel and steam trains could start running.

The Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society now run a weekend service on the line during the spring and summer months, and quite by chance whilst I was taking the photo of the station from the bridge, I could hear the unmistakable sound of a steam train in the distance, and a few minutes later I was treated to the sight of a steam train running again alongside Blake Hall Station.

Greensted Church

Heading towards Ongar:

Greensted Church

I did take photos in the 1980s of all the other stations between Epping and Ongar and the Central Line trains on this short extension, however I have only found the Blake Hall negatives – the challenges with a maximum of 36 photos on a single cassette of film. Hopefully I will find and scan my film of the rest of this small bit of the Central Line in rural Essex.

Full details of the train services now running between Ongar and North Weald can be found on the website of the Epping Ongar Railway.

The following map extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location of Blake Hall station (the orange circle) and how remote the station was from any major settlement. Blake Hall, the source of the name of the station is shown at the location of the red circle – it is some distance away. The route of the railway can be seen as the green line running left to right, to Chipping Ongar.

Greensted Church

The nearest village to the station is Greensted, and this is the location of my next stop, marked by the blue circle:

Greensted Church

Greensted Church is about one mile from Blake Hall station. When scanning my father’s photographs there were a few photos of the church that he took in 1953. There are no other local photos on the same strips of negatives, so I have no idea why he was here, did he travel out by the Central Line or on his bike.

Greensted Church is rather special, it is the only wooden church to have survived from before the Norman conquest, with the wooden walls of the nave dating from around 1060 – the oldest wooden Church in the world.

This is my father’s photo of the church in 1953:

Greensted Church

My photo from May 2018 is shown below. Greensted Church is identical in the two photos, as you would expect as the 65 years between the two photos is nothing compared to the 958 years that the nave of the church has been here in Greensted.

Greensted Church

There may have been a church on the site as early as the 6th or 7th century, however the Greensted Church of today developed in stages over the years.

In the photo above, the original Saxon nave of the church is the section to the right of the tower. The wooden logs forming the main part of the wall have been dated to around 1060. The logs were shortened and a lower brick wall added when decay in the logs was found during restoration of the church in 1848. The porch and windows in the roof are Victorian and the tiled roof is Tudor.

The chancel to the right of the nave, behind the tree has Norman origins, but is now mainly Tudor side wall and Victorian end wall.

In the photo below, the Tudor door, window and brickwork can be seen, with the remains of Norman flint walls on either side of the lower part of the wall. There are also, possibly, a couple of Roman tiles at the top of the flint on the left.

Greensted Church

There is no fixed date for the tower, it may be 17th century, or possibly earlier. One of the bells in the tower has the date 1618.

One of my father’s 1953 photos show the original logs of the side walls rather well:

Greensted Church

To construct the nave of the church, 54 oak logs were split lengthwise with the flat side on the interior of the church. Tongues of wood fixed into grooves running down the side of the logs were used to hold them together and seal gaps between adjacent logs.

The same view today:

Greensted Church

A view of the southern wall of the nave with the wooden logs. originally these would have extended into the ground and met a thatched roof at the top.

Greensted Church

The fenced grave in the above photo is thought to be a 12th century Crusaders grave.

The following photos show the interior of Greensted Church. The interior was much darker than the photos suggest. I was using a handheld camera so to avoid camera shake, I increased the ISO setting which has the effect of brightening the scene.

The following photo is from just inside the entrance porch, looking along the nave to the chancel at the end of the church. The flat side of the log walls can be seen running the length of the nave.

Greensted Church

The chancel:

Greensted Church

The view down the nave from the edge of the chancel gives a good idea of the wooden nave. Prior to the Tudor roof and Victorian windows, the nave would have been much darker,

Greensted Church

On the northern side of the church interior can be seen this strange, small piece of glass covering a hole through one of the logs:

Greensted Church

This is the other side of the hole – looking in from the outside of the church with one of the roof windows on the southern side of the church visible.

Greensted Church

The small window has been called a lepers squint – a small window in the side of a medieval church through which lepers could watch a church service, however this is very unlikely given the size of the hole and the very limited view of the church that it provides. It may well have been just a small window, or possibly a hole through which holy water could have been passed to a small font placed on the shelf cut into the wooden log. The shape of the hole in the log and the flat shelf makes this later use more likely.

The view from the rear of the graveyard of Greensted Church over the Essex countryside:

Greensted Church

The old Blake Hall Central Line Station is only a mile from Greensted Church so the trip out to Essex provided the perfect opportunity to visit the site of one of my earlier photos when the Central Line was still running out to this part of rural Essex, and the location of one of my father’s earlier photos. Two very different locations, but they are in their own way, fascinating landmarks on the Essex landscape.

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